Grand jury indicts Craig Stephen Hicks in shooting deaths of Muslim couple and in-law
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Durham County Office of the Sheriff/handout

A grand jury indicted a North Carolina man on Monday for the shooting deaths of a newlywed Muslim couple and the wife's sister last week, a court official said.

Craig Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill, was charged by a grand jury with three counts of first-degree murder and one of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling, said Angela Kelly, an assistant clerk of the Durham County Superior Court.

Deah Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were gunned down last Tuesday in a condominium about 2 miles (3 km) from the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill.

Investigators have said initial findings indicate a dispute over parking prompted the shooting, but they are looking into whether Hicks was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim.

The case has garnered international attention and has raised concerns among some Muslim advocates in the United States who say they have seen an increase in threats in recent weeks.

A paralegal student at Durham Technical Community College since 2012, Hicks has portrayed himself on Facebook as an atheist and filled his social media page with anti-religion posts.

The FBI has said it is opening its own preliminary inquiry. It has not specified if the inquiry would include whether the shooting was a hate crime.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)